Social Work Voices is a group of individuals with lived experience and knowledge of Social Work and Social Care services. This group is embedded in Social Work education at the University of Suffolk and Suffolk County Council. We use an approach of co-production. Co-production means that you will be involved in the creation, brainstorming, planning, delivery and evaluation of the activities that are carried out. You will help to design exercises that re-create and address issues within Social Work that you have experienced. This allows us to centre your real-life concerns at the heart of Social Work Education, improving this for all involved.
Our Citizen Involvement Coordinator, Sophie Walters, will build a relationship with you and explore your interests and aspirations. She will work with you to understand how you would like to be involved and aim to make this happen. The aim of her role is to ensure that the Social Worker, whether as a student or qualified professional never loses sight of the person they are working with and that they are always at the heart of the work.
You can get involved in:
- teaching sessions,
- creating videos and written resources
- Sessions around Equality and Diversity
- And so much more
It doesn’t matter if you have no experience of meetings or other activities everyone is welcome and will be supported.
People with a variety of experiences and knowledge are involved in many elements of social work education. Their involvement is fundamental to the activities at the University of Suffolk and Suffolk County Council. Involving people with experience of social work services, is highly valued by students and the social work course team at University of Suffolk and our partners within the Suffolk and Norfolk Teaching Partnership.
Essentially, social work practice is about social justice and social change and this is reflected in the meaningful and continued involvement of service users and carers at the University of Suffolk and Suffolk County Council.
*At University of Suffolk, Social Work our SWV member group developed and identified the name 'Service Participant' to describe their role. This may be commonly known in other subject areas as Service users and Carers, Citizens, Experts by Experience and more.
Involvement can include being involved in anything related to social work education across University of Suffolk and Suffolk County Council from admissions, interviews, contributing to teaching and learning activities with students and Social Workers, assessing students' skills and knowledge, developing learning materials, influencing what is taught at pre-and-post social work qualification, making sure service user perspectives are integral to decision making forums.
Involvement in admissions interviews means being part of an interview panel alongside a member of the social work course team and either a social work practitioner, a practice educator or a social work manager. Together people discuss their views of the quality of applicant's interview and make a decision about if the applicant is suitable for the social work course.
Contributing to teaching and learning activities
This can mean service participants talking in small groups or to large conference audiences, about their experience of needing support and working with social workers, care or key workers and what worked well and what could have been different. When students and Social Workers hear and really take in these experiences it can make a big difference to their understanding and it influences their values and shapes their social work practice.
Assessing students' skills and knowledge
Examples of this are where service participants observe and/or take a part in a student role play and provide feedback to the student. Students really appreciate this immediate feedback.
Developing learning materials and influencing the curriculum
This can be about creating case studies or for example a list of top tips (see below for an example). Learning materials that are informed by people’s experience and knowledge make education more vital and engaging. Service participants are involved in shaping what is taught and how it is taught and advise the social work course team at University of Suffolk and Workforce Development at Suffolk County Council on potential changes.
Taking part in decision making forums
Service participants are involved at all levels of the Teaching Partnership and are involved with social work course committee meetings. This is where students get a chance to feedback their views to the course team and partners and service users and carers also have a voice.
These are just some of the ways people get involved at the University of Suffolk and Suffolk County Council, but there are other ideas and we would be interested to hear from you if you have an idea.
If you have any questions or would like to know more about the involvement of social work service participants at the University of Suffolk and Suffolk County Council, please contact:
For more information on our approach please read Sophie's Blog
- An article about how service participants and students learn and work alongside each other at South Bank University
- A paper based on a case study of service participant involvement in an adoption research project
- A special issue of Social Work Education - The International Journal
- A National Voice - Coram is for children and young people to actively participate in shaping their own lives and holding to account the services that are responsible for their care
- Shaping our Lives - INVOLVE - A national user-controlled organisation and network.
- Suffolk Children in Care Council gives a voice to children and young people in Suffolk's care services
Co-Production at our Kitchen Table with SWV Members John and Sarah, with Sophie (CIC) via Siobhan Maclean's YouTube Channel